Transit group calls for President Obama to include public transit investment in State of Union speech

American Public Transportation Association (APTA) President William Millar issued the following statement on Monday. Metro is a member of APTA:

“On behalf of the millions of Americans who rely on public transportation every day, I call on President Obama to address the urgent need for infrastructure investment, including public transportation, in his State of the Union Address tomorrow. This investment is key to putting our country onto the path of economic recovery and competitiveness.

Since the last federal surface transportation legislation expired nearly 16 months ago, President Obama should work with Congress to pass a new, well-funded, multi-year surface transportation authorization bill this year.

Transportation investments offer long-term benefits that last for many decades.  First and foremost, public transportation investment is about jobs. For every $1 billion invested in public transit, 36,000 public and private sector jobs are supported and created. His continued support for investment in high-speed rail is important as it will create a new industry that will add thousands of jobs for American workers. Public transportation investment stimulates the economy in other ways as every $1 dollar invested in public transportation yields $4 in economic returns.

Creating and supporting jobs through transportation infrastructure investments should be a top priority for all our national leaders.  The benefits are great both in the short and long term.”

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The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is a nonprofit international association of 1,500 public and private member organizations, engaged in the areas of bus, paratransit, light rail, commuter rail, subways, waterborne services, and intercity and high-speed passenger rail. This includes: transit systems; planning, design, construction, and finance firms; product and service providers; academic institutions; transit associations and state departments of transportation. APTA members serve the public interest by providing safe, efficient and economical transit services and products. More than 90 percent of the people using public transportation in the United States and Canada ride APTA member systems.

Metrolink receives over $75 Million from CTC to fund safety and growth projects in SoCal

Here’s the press release from Metrolink, the commuter rail agency partially funded by Metro:

Positive Train Control project receives $68.75 million and capacity-enhancing project on the Antelope Valley line gets $7.2 million

Los Angeles – Late last week, the California Transportation Commission allocated $1 billion for transportation projects across the state. Of those funds, Metrolink received $68.75 million for the implementation of Positive Train Control (PTC) and $7.2 million to add track to the Antelope Valley line in Los Angeles County. This action allows Metrolink’s member agencies to release funding for the two projects.

“Positive Train Control will enhance safety across the entire Metrolink System and the Antelope Valley siding project will increase capacity and reduce travel time on one of our busiest lines,” said Metrolink CEO John Fenton. “These funds help us reach our goal of becoming the region’s commute of choice by providing a safe, reliable, affordable and flexible transportation option for the region.”

Positive Train Control is a predictive collision avoidance technology that enhances safety through its ability to override human error, preventing train accidents. Metrolink’s PTC program calls for installing a back-office system, replacing the current computer-aided dispatch system on 57 cab cars and 52 locomotives, installing stop enforcement system at 476 wayside signals, and implementing a six-county specialized communication network to link the wayside signals, trains and centralized dispatch office on one of the nation’s busiest and most complex rail networks. Metrolink has a plan to fund the $201.6 million project and is on track to implement PTC well in advance of the 2015 Federal mandate. Continue reading

House Republican group calls for elimination of federal New Starts program

Here’s the item from Metro CEO Art Leahy’s daily email to staff yesterday:

Today [Thursday], a conservative group of House Republicans unveiled a legislative proposal that seeks to cut more than $2.5 trillion from the Federal Budget over the coming decade. The plan, released by the chairman of the Republican Study Group, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), would primarily target cutting non-defense appropriations programs. These programs would include, but not be limited to, transportation programs like the Federal New Starts program. Over the past several decades, our agency has secured billions of dollars in New Starts funds for projects like the Metro Red Line and the Metro Gold Line Eastside Extension. Currently, our agency is seeking New Starts funds for the Regional Connector and the Westside Subway Extension. As outlined by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) discretionary New Starts program is the federal government’s primary financial resource for supporting locally-planned, implemented, and operated transit “guideway” capital investments. From heavy to light rail, from commuter rail to bus rapid transit systems, the FTA’s New Starts program has helped to make possible hundreds of new or extended transit fixed guideway systems across the country. These rail and bus investments, in turn, have improved the mobility of millions of Americans; have helped to reduce congestion and improve air quality in the areas they serve; and have fostered the development of viable, safer, and more livable communities.

The Republican Study Committee is a group of over 165 House Republicans organized for the purpose of advancing a conservative social and economic agenda in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Ticket machines that dispense TAP cards and allow stored value are being tested

Metro’s TAP card made two giant strides forward in recent days, with testing now underway on two key features: the ability to buy a TAP card directly from a ticket vending machine and to load a set amount of cash on the card and have the cost of riding deducted as you go.

Metro quietly began testing a couple of weeks ago on a single ticket vending machine in the Union Station Red/Purple Line station. It didn’t take long for several Source readers and the PlusMetro blog to find the machine, which sits at the far right on the bank of ticket machines on the Vignes side of the station.

Readers of The Source have long been clamoring for the ability to load TAP cards with set amounts of cash — called “stored value. It has become a fairly common feature in some regions that also use electronic fare cards and has always been a goal of the TAP program here.

How does it work? Let’s say Joe Transit puts $20 on his card and wants to ride the Red Line from downtown to Hollywood. Joe would just tap his TAP card when entering the subway station and $1.50 — the price of a single-ride ticket — would be deducted. That means Joe doesn’t have to spend time dealing with getting a ticket from the machines.

One question we expect to get from readers: How will stored value work with day passes?

The answer: A TAP card can hold both day passes as well as stored value. So if you plan to ride four or more trips in a single day, load a day pass from the ticket machine or inform the bus driver and the TAP card reader will automatically default to use the day pass to cover the cost of your trips for the day. Also, if you have money stored on the card, you can use those funds to pay for the day pass at the machine or farebox.

Also being tested is another useful feature: A TAP card can be bought directly from the ticket vending machine for two dollars. Cards are currently available for purchase on the website, from Metro customer service centers and 400 outlets around L.A. County. Having them available from the ticket machines makes it easier for everyone — in particular, tourists — to get one the day they need one.

One note: even if you buy a TAP card from the machine, it’s still advisable to visit the website to register the card in your name in case it’s ever lost or damaged. Also, you don’t need to buy a new TAP card to take advantage of stored value — it will work on your existing card if you have one.

The ability to purchase TAP cards is being expanded to 22 ticket machines in Metro Rail stations across the county — the list is after the jump. The agency is also presently expanding the ability to add stored value to a TAP card to all ticket machines in the Metro Rail system.
Continue reading

Metro staff explains proposed bus changes and alternative service

Metro staff earlier this month proposed changes — including some cuts — to bus service that would take effect in June. Many readers of The Source and other blogs have understandably raised questions about their future commutes.

I urge anyone who has questions to read this document posted on the Metro website that explains the rationale for many of the changes, along with alternative bus routes to bus lines that may be cut.

Five things I'm thinking about transportation

In this relatively new feature for The Source,  I express actual opinions while working for government. Members of the media: please take any of these ideas and run with them — we could use the coverage!

1. I think it’s good news to hear that Caltrans is beginning scoping work on how to improve the rail corridor between Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo, much of which is single track. The fact that it takes 2.5 hours to travel 95 miles by train from Union Station to Santa Barbara says a lot about — and not much good — about the state of our passenger rail system in California.

2. One of the most interesting points I’ve read in the ongoing debate about the effectiveness of President Obama’s first term was in the New York Time’s profile of new Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who was previously Denver’s mayor. Hickenlooper’s main point was that Obama should have focused first on infrastructure. Excerpt:

But he did go on to question one aspect of the Obama presidency — in order, tellingly, to make clear that he values consensus over a crusade. “Rather than going to health care first, I would have gone, I think, to transportation infrastructure,” Hickenlooper said, explaining that he noticed through his work with the U.S. Conference of Mayors that the issue had moved from a Democratic preoccupation to a more bipartisan one. “Here’s something everybody cares about. Maybe we focus on that to build bridges.” Was the double entendre deliberate?

“I think the Obama administration,” he added, “saw a higher need to make history.” Continue reading

ExpressLanes project picks contractor

Here’s the news from Metro CEO Art Leahy’s daily email to staff:

Today, a major milestone was reached with the ExpressLanes Project with the issuance of the Notice to Proceed to Atkinson Contractors, LP. The Contractor was competitively selected to design-build-operate-and–maintain (DBOM) the ExpressLanes Demonstration Project. The Atkinson team includes AECOM for design and ACS Inc for tolling integration. This is the first DBOM contract in the history of the agency.

We have established and the Contractor has made a commitment to a Contract Goal for the participation of Underutilized Disadvantaged Business Enterprise firms of 16.2% of the total contract price.

The ExpressLanes project is converting the existing carpool lanes on parts of the 10 and 110 freeways to HOT lanes in which variable tolls will be used to improve speeds and allow single-occupant motorists to buy time in the lanes. People who currently carpool, vanpool or take buses that use the existing carpool lanes will continue to do so for free. More details are on the project’s website.

Goodbye, diesel bus — nice knowing you!

Photo by Juan Ocampo

Here’s the official photo of the last diesel bus in Metro Los Angeles’ fleet being towed into retirement this morning.

As we posted earlier in more detail, Metro is now the first major transit agency in the world that has a fleet comprised entirely of clean-burning buses. That includes 2,221 buses that run on compressed natural gas, six gas-electric hybrids and one bus that is fully electric.

And what happens to the above bus? It’s being scrapped and holes are being punctured in its engine block so that it will never again run or burp out those very unlovely diesel fumes.

Metro retires last diesel bus, becomes world's first major transit agency to operate only clean fuel buses

Here’s the agency’s press release for the retirement event to be held later this morning:

The last diesel bus in the massive 2,228 vehicle fleet directly operated by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) today was retired making Metro the first major transit agency in the world to operate only alternative clean fueled buses. The “retirement” ceremony highlighted the significant contribution Metro has made in reducing air pollution in one of America’s smoggiest regions.

“What Metro has achieved transcends Los Angeles County,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor and Metro Board Chair Don Knabe. “We proved from both a technical and economic standpoint that a large transit agency can operate with alternative clean burning fuels and this has led many other transit agencies to follow our lead. Likewise, what Metro is doing to tap solar energy, recycle and build green facilities is raising the bar for the industry. That’s good for our customers, taxpayers and the environment.”

Metro runs the second largest public transit bus operation in the United States with nearly 400 million annual passenger boardings, and its buses log just under 1.5 billion miles a year.

Metro directors in 1993 decided to only order clean air vehicles, an action that paved the way for other transit agencies across the U.S. to opt for greener vehicles. After experimenting with methanol and ethanol buses that proved too corrosive for bus engines, Metro ultimately went with compressed natural gas (CNG) engines and today has 2,221 CNG buses, one electric and six gasoline-electric hybrid buses in its fleet. They have logged 1 billion clean air miles.

Compared with diesel buses, Metro’s new CNG fleet reduces cancer-causing particulate matter by more than 80 percent. And because of the switch from diesel to CNG, Metro avoids emitting nearly 300,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per day. Continue reading